Ukraine invasion: Fighting reaches outskirts of Kyiv as Russian troops advance

Heavy gunfire and explosions heard as president Zelenskiy vows to defend country

Fighting has reached the outskirts of Kyiv, following a night of missile attacks on Ukraine’s capital to prepare for a major Russian assault on the city.

Heavy gunfire and explosions could be heard in a residential district of the capital on Friday morning and Ukrainian officials have warned that Russian military vehicles are approaching the city from the northwest.

The Ukrainian defence ministry said Russian forces had entered the Obolon district of Kyiv, about 10 kilometres from the centre of the city. In a statement posted online, it advised residents to report the movements of Russian troops and to “prepare molotov cocktails in order to neutralise the enemy”.

Two Kyiv apartment buildings were engulfed in flames on Thursday night after they were hit by falling debris from an aircraft that was shot down. Ukraine's emergencies ministry has also released photographs showing buildings destroyed by shelling in Starobilsk in eastern Ukraine.


“They say that civilian objects are not a target for them. It is a lie; they do not distinguish in which areas to operate,” he said.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy made the claim in a televised address early on Friday, in which he vowed to continue to defend his country. "Russia will have to talk to us sooner or later about how to end hostilities and stop this invasion. The sooner the conversation begins, the smaller Russia's losses will be."

The president, who also criticised world leaders for "watching from afar", spoke after large explosions were heard in the capital, and after a warning from US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, that "all evidence suggests that Russia intends to encircle and threaten" the city. Mr Zelenskiy has vowed to stay in the capital.

Mr Zelenskiy said missile strikes resumed at 4am and images soon emerged of damaged and burning tower blocks amid footage containing the sound of air raid sirens. Early on Friday, Ukraine’s military said it had shot down a Russia aircraft over the capital.

The UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has said it is the view of British intelligence that Russia intends to invade the whole of Ukraine, but its army failed to deliver on the first day of its invasion. Mr Wallace told Sky News he estimated that Russia had lost 450 personnel so far

The international criminal court (ICC) said on Friday it might investigate possible war crimes, though did not provide any further details.

Ukrainian troops are battling Russian forces advancing toward Kyiv as part of the biggest invasion of a European state since the second World War. "We believe Moscow has developed plans to inflict widespread human rights abuses – and potentially worse – on the Ukrainian people," Mr Blinken told a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday.

In an earlier overnight video address, Mr Zelenskiy said 137 people had died since Putin launched an invasion by land, air and sea on Thursday, with hundreds of others injured, and claimed that Russia had named him “target number one”.

He warned: “My family is the number two target. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state. I will stay in the capital. My family is also in Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian president also voiced frustration after speaking to the heads of Nato member states. "We have been left alone to defend our state," Mr Zelenskiy said. "Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don't see anyone. Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of Nato membership? Everyone is afraid."


Ukrainian officials said Moscow’s forces had taken control of the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant – scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986 – some 130km north of Kyiv, and were trying to seize the Antonov airport about 30km outside the capital after attacking with helicopters and paratroopers.

Ukraine’s nuclear agency said it was recording increased radiation levels from the site of the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Experts at the agency did not provide exact radiation levels but said the change was due to the movement of heavy military equipment in the area lifting radioactive dust into the air.

The West scrambled to respond to Mr Putin's aggression with a range of new sanctions against Moscow, with the US also announcing it would send 7,000 more troops to Germany to shore up Nato's eastern borders. But even after the invasion there were divisions on the strength of the response, as Russian forces advanced undeterred by the threats.

The EU faced furious remonstrations from Kyiv after Europe’s leaders looked set to hold back from imposing the potentially most damaging sanction on Russia: blocking Russia from an international payments system through which it receives foreign currency.

Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said European and US politicians would have "blood on their hands" if they failed to impose the heaviest toll on Moscow by cutting Russia from the Swift payments system.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the EU was united after discussions of the five-pillar sanctions package targeting the financial, energy, transport and export industries and visa controls.

She said: “Today’s events are a watershed moment for Europe. Bombs are falling on innocent women, men and children. They fear for their lives and many are dying. All of this happens in 2022 - in the very heart of Europe. President Putin chose to bring back war to Europe.

“Let me stress that these events, indeed, mark the beginning of a new era. We must be very clear in our analysis: Putin is trying to subjugate a friendly European country. And he is trying to redraw the maps of Europe by force. He must, and he will, fail.”

A package of European Union sanctions on Russia agreed overnight will not stop the current invasion of Ukraine, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

“People can argue one particular type of sanction versus another but in its totality, what was decided last evening, is very strong,” the Taoiseach

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland "stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their darkest hour" and would "absolutely not" recognise any Russian-imposed government in Kyiv.

Leaders of the 30 Nato allied nations will meet on Friday, the US president, Joe Biden, confirmed, as they come under pressure to go further than the two rounds of sanctions already announced, after what the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, described as a "dark day in the history of our continent".

The United Nations security council will also vote on Friday on a draft resolution condemning Russia's invasion and requiring Moscow's immediate withdrawal. However, Moscow can veto the measure, and it was unclear how China, which has rejected calling Russia's move an invasion, would vote. – Additional reporting from the Guardian/Reuters

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times